French prime minister Lionel Jospin has promised a "profound" review of the aeronautical industry, but in his speech at the close of the Paris Air Show on 22 June, he stopped short of confirming the privatisations of Thomson-CSF and Aerospatiale.
"I know what is expected, I understand the stakes and I know the deadlines-but the big issues must be examined thoroughly before any decisions are taken," he said. Jospin promises, however, that major programmes such as the Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter and the Eurocopter Tiger and NH Industries NH90 helicopters will be preserved, signalling his approval of the multi-year procurement philosophy demanded by the industry and accepted by the previous Government.
The merger of state-owned Aerospatiale with privately owned Dassault will also go ahead, insists Jospin. "I consider essential the marriage of competences in the civil and military domains," he says, adding that, in the defence-electronics sector, Thomson-CSF is "a trump card" around which the European industry should be centred to meet the challenge of the US competition.
"We must proceed rapidly, but with method, to make choices that in this area - essential for the sovereignty of our country - cannot be taken without state involvement," he says. The Government would therefore play a "central role" in the restructuring process - a comment which has been taken to mean that Jospin intends to keep pre-election promises that there would be no further privatisations, leaving the Government with majority stakes in Aerospatiale and Thomson-CSF.
Source: Flight International